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School District receives $150,000 donation to preserve teaching positions

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District recently received a donation of $150,000 to preserve teaching positions and maintain class sizes. The donation was made by the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation, a private nonprofit organization.

Kathryn Whittaker, the foundation's president, announced the donation during the district's Aug. 1 school board meeting.

According to a letter of understanding, the funds are dedicated for keeping teachers and lowering or maintaining current class sizes.

'Our mission is that to ensure funding to advocate education,' Whittaker said.

The foundation was originally formed during the 1992-93 school year after Salem took over school funding. To supplement the loss of funding, the foundation was formed.

The foundation died down after a few years of holding auctions and raising money.

In the 2002-03 school year, the foundation was regenerated and given the name Teach the Children Foundation, where its goal was 'making friends and funds,' according to Whittaker.

However, the economy was in better shape then and there was not much need for private funding. The foundation then took on a stewardship role.

Last summer, when the district lost 30 classroom teachers, there was a push from the community to revive the committee, Whittaker said.

They changed the name back to the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation and got to work. The committee is comprised of 16 members and has representatives from each of the 13 schools in the district. One third of the board is teachers or administrators from the district.

'They are an amazing group,' said School Board Member Betty Reynolds.

To form their plan of attack, committee members did three things. They looked back to the history of the foundation and what worked or didn't work. They looked externally to see what other districts were doing. And they looked at the district and how it communicates with the public, such as the use of the Internet and websites.

Not wanting to compete with individual schools and their PTOs or PTAs, the foundation opted against similar fundraising strategies, such as the previously used auctions.

'Parent clubs at schools are strong. They like to give to their own schools,' Whittaker said. 'We did not want to tread upon them.'

Last December, the foundation held an 'Honor Our Teachers' campaign, asking parents to make donations in honor of their teachers during the holiday season. They raised more than $25,000 in the two-week campaign.

The next campaign was called 'SOS - Support Our Schools, Save Our Staff, Sustain Our Success.' During a course of four to five weeks, the foundation raised $75,000.

The foundation also embarked on a corporate strategy, contacting area businesses and getting their support.

With the addition of some rainy day funds that had been set aside by the foundation in previous years, the total sum of money raised during the 2010-2011 school year is $150,000.

Whittaker said the foundation will continue into this next school year, but is unsure of what the campaign will look like.

Board Chair Dale Hoogestrat thanked all the foundation members for their continued support, saying 'I'd like to express my thanks to everyone who has worked so hard. That money will go directly to the classroom in the form of teachers.'

For more information about the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation, visit www.wlwvfoundation.org.